Born in 1901, Lloyd Robert Maxwell Ross, OBE, was an author, academic, advisor to prime ministers, senior public servant, trade union leader, journalist, and always adult educator. After graduating from Melbourne University, he continued with graduate studies. Serving in a variety of roles throughout his career, he tirelessly promoted adult education throughout his long life.
From 1926 to 1935 he held several university adult education appointments, including Tutor/Organizer at Otago in New Zealand, Newcastle District Tutor, and finally Assistant Director of the Department of Tutorial Classes at the University of Sydney. In all of these roles, he was renowned for his ability to involve working adults in his classes, even in the more academic liberal arts subjects. Always seeking to reach students most effectively, he held classes in railway workshops and factories. He was also an active and committed member of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), contributing to the WEA Journal. During this time, he wrote on a variety of adult education issues and eventually became the journal’s editor.
In 1929, Dr. Ross was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and studied abroad at Manchester University and the London School of Economics. In 1935, he was admitted by the University of New Zealand to the degree of Doctor of Letters, on the basis of a thesis entitled “The Labor Movement: A History and an Analysis.”
Through all of these positions, he remained committed to improving adult education. He remained a popular teacher in adult education classes, lecturing on issues relating to industrial relations, especially worker participation and workplace democracy. Perhaps most importantly, he organized in conjunction with the WEA regular “trade union schools,” which were then the main source of professional continuing education for trade unionists in New South Wales.
After retiring, Dr. Ross continued to be an active participant in social, political, and cultural life in Australia. He remained a very active adult educator, wrote widely, and presented frequently at academic conferences. He was a long-time member of the Board of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom (AACF). In 1972, he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to the Australian nation.
Dr. Ross bridged the worlds of adult education and the labor movements like few others have done. He loved both but was not blind to the weaknesses of either. For him, the cause of labor could not be advanced by mere words or even force but only by the hard work of its own student-participants. Moreover, he believed adult education would be greatly enriched by having two-way communication into the world of labor. Throughout his life, he continually brought questions of participation and purpose to the front of the adult education debate.
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